The Fort St. John Huskies wore out the shot clock for the third straight game Saturday night, going over 35 on the way to a tight 4-2 win over the Sexsmith Vipers in their home opener at North Peace Arena.
The high shot totals; including the 43 on Saturday and a season high 23 in the first period have been a point of emphasis for the Huskies coaching staff early on this year. Assistant coach Todd Alexander said post game the next step is more conversions on opportunities.
“I think we did a better job at net presence. We didn’t have much net presence when we were in Sexsmith last time. We had 38 shots and their goalie had a pretty easy time catching a lot of pucks from the outside. We did a lot better job getting in there. Having that second, third and fourth opportunity was much better tonight,” he said.
“A lot of those shots are off of transition (too), we did a good job of forcing them to turn the puck over in the neutral zone and then we were off to the attack right away. We did a good job of getting pucks to the net. Instead of making the extra move… that’s really nice to see right now.”
The Huskies fell behind 1-0 early, until Drew Fudger scored on the power play for his third goal in four games this season.
Midway through the second, Geoff Dick scored his first of the year on a gorgeous saucer pass from Adam Bowie to give the home side the lead. 57 seconds later, Kyle Crawford converted on a scramble in front to give Fort St. John a 3-1 lead and turned out to be the game winning goal. That goal also sparked a scuffle that had Koby Adams-Loitz mixed up with several Vipers, before Lou Giesbrecht quickly jumped to his defense and pummeled Austin Hrehourk in a spirited tilt. The fight brought the big early season crowd of nearly 500 at North Peace Arena to their feet.
The Vipers came within a goal late in the second while killing off a five-minute major penalty for charging to Nick Miller, who laid a dirty hit on Huskies goalie Matthieu Fawcett.
“I did see it, we’re not very happy about it,” Alexander said. “Fortunate enough that (Fawcett) wasn’t injured on the play, because it was a real bonehead play behind the net. You don’t hit a defenseless goaltender on the chin with an elbow. That’s just silly.”
Following the hit, Fawcett had his busiest period of the game as Fort St. John held on for the win. The rookie netminder said in his first North West Junior Hockey League win, the adrenaline got pumping in the third after the injury.
“Feels pretty good, have a great group of guys in front of me. We really needed this one, these guys took it to us in the first game of the season. Being able to get the big win against them back at home feels pretty good,” he said. “That hit in the second got the adrenaline boosted up. I was pretty ready to keep going there. When you’re up by one goal you really have to amplify your game.”
Captain Jarod Lang closed out the scoring for the Huskies with an empty-netter.
Next up for the Huskies will be another home contest when they welcome the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings to town on Friday, Oct. 14.